STEPHEN GLOVER: If he wants to recover his reputation, David Cameron must pay back his tainted millions
David Cameron is not, I think, a bad man. But he must be a very unhappy one.
I expect that wherever he lays his head at night, he tosses and turns, fretting and worrying as he considers the mounting charge sheet against him.
The former Prime Minister stands accused of greed on an epic scale, of monumentally poor judgment and carelessness. His severest critics go further, and impugn his integrity and even his probity.
I can’t think of any prime minister whose reputation has fallen so precipitously. When he left office in June 2016, he was admittedly not celebrated as the greatest leader this country has ever known. But he was widely considered a man of moderation and good sense.
David Cameron’s reputation since leaving Downing Street has been shattered and stands accused of greed on an epic scale, of monumentally poor judgment and carelessness – especially with his relationship to Australian financier Lex Greensill
His reputation has been shattered by his close association with the controversial financier Lex Greensill, and the work he did for Greensill Capital, which went bust in March
That assessment has been shattered by his close association with the controversial financier Lex Greensill, and the work he did for Greensill Capital, which went bust in March.
Yesterday, The Times opened a further front against David Cameron. It reported that another of those who paid for his services — an American biotech company called Illumina — secured a £123 million genetic-sequencing contract after he urged Matt Hancock to attend a genomics conference. Mr Hancock had previously not responded to an invitation sent weeks earlier directly to him.
More from Stephen Glover for the Daily Mail…
More troubling questions for Mr Cameron to answer. They all centre on his apparent profligate use of his former office as prime minister.
Let us examine the evidence against him in as generous a spirit as possible. Probably the most deadly arrow to his heart was discharged by BBC’s Panorama earlier this week.
The main accusation levelled against him was that he received a whopping £7.2 million in salary and shares (which he is said to have cashed in) during the two and a half years he worked part-time for Greensill. The BBC says it has documents to prove it. ‘Part-time’ is the crucial word. Mr Cameron was not generally rising with the lark and returning home wearily to catch the dying words of the Ten O’clock News.
When he was working, if that isn’t too strong a word, he might have been on a Greensill private jet with a glass of champagne in his hand on the way to a beano in Singapore or Saudi Arabia.
There he would deploy his famous PR skills proselytising the company to wide-eyed investors keen to trust the endorsement of a British ex-prime minister.
Or he might have been earning his bread, or at least exercising his fingers, in the months before Greensill Capital crashed by sending 56 texts and emails to civil servants and government ministers, including the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, pleading for support for the company.
Fortunately, the Bank of England didn’t cough up the £10 billion investment Mr Cameron was seeking, though Greensill was given access to a government-backed loan scheme without being subject to detailed checks. As a result, taxpayers are facing a £335 million loss.
Anyway — to return to the alleged £7.2 million payment for part-time work — we should in fairness mention that the former PM’s spokesman declared after the Panorama programme that his boss ‘did not receive anything like the figures quoted’.
This is a very unsatisfactory response. It leaves one wondering why the BBC’s apparently authentic documents tell a different story. And how much was it? Five million? Four? Three? It would be helpful — not least to David Cameron’s good name — to be told the truth.
As it is, we are left with the impression of a man who was grotesquely overpaid for doing some work for a company which has collapsed in disarray, owing its creditors some £1 billion.
Many will think that a leading Tory has his snout in the trough again. How ironic that the man who set out to detoxify the Conservative Party should end up by confirming people’s worst prejudices about it
It has been alleged that Mr Cameron, left, lobbied the then Health Secretary Matt Hancock, centre, to attend a genomics conference hosted by a company which employed the former PM
Please don’t misunderstand me. No one could be more pleased than I when a hard-working businessman earns squillions of pounds by creating jobs and wealth.
But Mr Cameron’s activities don’t fall into that category. He was excessively rewarded for comparatively little work. His real qualification was that he happened to have been Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
If everything had gone according to plan, he would have trousered even more undeserved cash since before Greensill went belly-up his shareholding seemed on track to make him as much as £70 million. By the way, Lex Greensill is said to have extracted £40 million from the wreckage.
Was greed Mr Cameron’s only vice? I fear not. He displayed appalling judgment in backing Mr Greensill, who is what used to be called a ‘wide boy’. Brilliant and charming, no doubt, but not always punctilious about detail. Yet Mr Cameron placed his faith in this character. As far back as 2012, he gave him a desk in No 10 and extolled his wheeze of speeding up the payment of NHS-linked pharmacies for a fee. Why not just get the NHS to settle its bills promptly?
Having given Mr Greensill’s career a massive boost, Mr Cameron was more than amply repaid two years after leaving No 10 by the offer of a role on absurdly lucrative terms.
The question is whether he knew early last year that the company was on its last legs. According to Panorama, Greensill Capital became aware that a company to which it had lent around £3.6 billion — GFG Alliance, controlled by steel magnate Sanjeev Gupta — could not meet its repayments.
So Greensill allegedly started making the payments out of its own resources, masking GFG Alliance’s financial difficulties, as well as its own exposure.
Did Mr Cameron have wind of this when he took his begging bowl around Whitehall? He insists not, saying that he wasn’t a director of Greensill (though he regularly attended board meetings) and had no executive responsibilities.
In which case, he was very rash to evangelise on the company’s behalf, and to try to access public funds, without informing himself that it was on its last legs. It smacks of extreme carelessness, and an amateurishness scarcely credible in a former prime minister.
Greensill could not have been a well-managed or entirely transparent concern. Mr Cameron’s championing of it betrays breathtaking misjudgment in addition to atrocious greed. And this from a man who in 2010 inveighed against the evils of lobbying!
Many will think that a leading Tory has his snout in the trough again. How ironic that the man who set out to detoxify the Conservative Party should end up by confirming people’s worst prejudices about it.
Is his behaviour any worse than that of Tony Blair, who has made tens of millions of pounds, sometimes working for dodgy dictators? All one can say is that most of Mr Blair’s fortune has gone to his foundation. Mr Cameron wants riches for himself.
I assume he doesn’t want to be shunned at his club or avoided by his friends. I suppose that he cares about his reputation and doesn’t wish to be remembered as an unnaturally greedy, negligent man.
So may I make a suggestion? Another Tory ex-PM, Stanley Baldwin, gave a fifth of his fortune — £120,000 — to help pay Britain’s war debt after World War I. That equates to over £6 million today. He, of course, had nothing to atone for.
What an example! If Mr Cameron wishes to be rehabilitated, the path to redemption is to return his ill-gotten gains from Greensill Capital to its creditors, or else give it to charity.
In the three years after leaving No 10, he earned £1.6 million from media appearances and giving speeches. David Cameron won’t starve if he gives back the money, but he might recover his good name, which is infinitely more precious.
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